Dear Allison van Diepen,
It’s just your #fangirl, Auburnchick, with a little shout-out to one of the best YA authors around!
I wanted to share a story that I thought would make you smile.
First of all, you may remember that we exchanged emails in the spring after I wrote you to tell you how one of my students fell in love with The Vampire Stalker. I blogged about it here.
I’m thrilled to tell you that I am raising another group of van Diepen fans in this year’s classes.
Today, when my sixth period class entered my room, one of my girls, “A,” stopped me and said, “Mrs. Auburnchick, I finished my book!”
I excitedly asked her to tell me the title. I teach sixty students and often forget who has which book.
She proudly pulled out a copy of Snitch.
Our conversation continued: “Mrs. Auburnchick, I’m going to have to read it again,” she said.
“Oh really,” I said. “Did you enjoy it that much?”
She responded, “Well, parts of it confused me, so I need to read it over.”
You see, I teach high school Intensive Reading. I provide reading instruction to students who need extra support so they can pass our state reading exam and, thus, graduate.
For a student to recognize that he/she didn’t understand something and to take it further by coming up with a plan to improve comprehension is HUGE. It’s what I, as a reading teacher, strive for.
The conversation didn’t end there.
She said, “I want to do research.”
I asked the obvious question, “Research about what?”
She said, “What made her write about gangs and drugs.”
I’m sorry, but in my world, students do not often research such things unless a grade depends on it.
I was beyond floored.
She asked me for help, and I told her we would work on it during the class’s silent reading time.
You should have seen her eagerness as we did bell work and fluency.
She sat on the edge of her chair and held up her book a couple of times…just as a reminder.
Finally, it was time, and I told her to pull up a chair.
The first thing we did was pull up your website.
She immediately decided that the next book she wants to read is Takedown, which I own.
Duh. I am, after all, a #fangirl.
Then, we started looking for information that would explain why you wrote the book Snitch.
We got distracted by the study guide we found, and I printed it out for her. I told her that if she answered the questions from the guide, to check for comprehension, I would give her bonus points on a test.
She was thrilled.
Next, I asked her if she had Twitter and told her how awesome you are about responding to Tweets.
Her mom is somewhat strict and doesn’t allow her to Tweet.
Still, she really wanted to ask you a question…immediately.
So, I pulled up my Twitter account…for educational purposes (in case Big Brother is reading).
I showed her how I “follow” you, and I typed my question.
You haven’t responded as of this writing.
I forgive you.
You have a family to take care of.
Just don’t wait too long.
I promised I’d share your response with her.
Next, I suggested that she find you on Facebook.
Don’t be surprised if A starts following you there.
As we sat, she told me how she loved that you wrote poetry for the book, and that she connected to it personally because she likes to write poetry too.
Ms. van Diepen, do you know how monumental this is?
We have been working on making connections when we read…something struggling readers have to be taught explicitly to do.
Oh word, but my teacher heart was overjoyed!
Then, she spoke words that I insisted she share with you on Facebook.
She makes me want to write a book.
Take a look at the sticky note I used to record her words…
Ms. van Diepen,
Thank you for writing relevant teen fiction.
Does it have cursing.
Does it talk about gangs, drugs, and turf wars?
Do my kids want to keep reading more and more?
It’s not because of the cursing, although that makes it more authentic.
It’s because of the subject matter and the way you paint realistic pictures.
Students think, when they enter my room, that they don’t like to read.
They quickly discover, through in-touch writers like yourself, that they’ve never had the right books placed in their hands.
Please keep doing what you’re doing.
You are making a difference in countless children’s lives by fueling a fire that feeds what I hope will develop into a lifelong passion for reading.
P.S. I like the old cover of Snitch much better than the new one…grabs the kids’ attention. You should tell your publishers this. 😉